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Ginger Beef (Calgary)

Hello Hounds. I apologize if I am putting my foot in my mouth on my first post (I have done a basic search to find a ginger beef thread in the past year and I cant find anything).

While I am not a particularly large fan of the Calgary invented, deep fried meat in syrup dish known as ginger beef, I would like some help finding some stand out examples of it. A good friend from Montreal recently moved to Calgary and although new to the city, he loves it, and our culinary contributions. His top pick for ginger beef so far is Silver Dragon. He also had the ginger beef at Ming years ago (it used to be quite good- I'm not sure anymore).

Where would you recommend I take my friend for great ginger beef?

(he is, sadly, not a big fan of drinking Caesar's- but I am, so that will be a future post)

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  1. Silver Inn - it was "invented" at this restaurant (originally called chili beef I believe), so you might as well try it there.... it's not as sweet or sticky as many other places.

    2702 Centre Street North

    If you go, try the sizzling rice, dumplings, hot and sour soup

    1. This is a weird suggestion, but the vegetarian "ginger beef" at Buddha's Veggie is delicious- more tender than a lot of pure laine ginger beef and probably a bit healthier.

      Even after 8 years in Calgary I still think that the best ginger beef I've ever had was at the Pilot Tavern in Toronto- which is not only not in Calgary, it's not even Chinese.

      1. I really like the Ginger Beef at Spicy Hut on Edmonton Trail.

        1. Thank you everyone. Alley- we went to the Silver Inn tonight and the ginger beef was great.

          This is a search for Calgarian food so it is both interesting, and predictable that there would be a strong Chinese relation, as Chinatown and Chinese culture is a big part of Calgary. It's interesting that you can't get ginger beef in China, but we call it Chinese food. It is interesting to me to think about Calgarian food. I wonder why we don't celebrate ginger beef like Montrealer's do smoked meat, and Philadelphians do cheese steaks. Why don't drunk kids eat it 3am (I guess some do, but really bad pizza is still dominant with hot dogs making a bit of a move). Why don't our fancy restaurants play with the dish every now and then? For example, if Michael Nobel opens 'Notable' I would like to see ginger beef on the menu. Yes, I don't really like the dish, but that's not the point. Plus if more people were trying to make really good versions of it maybe I'd like it more.

          I like the food at Spicy Hut for the price and we will visit it for ginger beef. We will try the veggie version at Buddha's too. I read about a place called Peking Peking that is supposed to be good- so my Montreal friend and I will eat a lot of ginger beef and I will write up some reviews.

          Here's what I thought of Silver Inn.

          We ordered a pretty standard set of 4 "white person" Chinese food dishes. Although I love to try 'authentic' dishes, we were there for regional Calgary Chinese. As per Alley's suggestion we ordered hot and sour soup, sizzling rice, dumplings and ginger beef. The food was generally tasty and well priced. This isn't high dinning at all- but that's not what we were there for. The restaurant reminded me, fittingly on fathers day, of going for dinner with my dad when I was much younger. I almost wanted to order chocolate milk, as it certainly would have come in one of those little yellow glasses. The sizzling rice came first. It was a bowl of maybe deep fried rice and the sauce was poured on by the waitress. It was way too much sauce so it was more like a soup. The shrimp were very tender and oddly translucent, but good. The sauce was basically 'Palace style' sauce. It was my least favorite dish.

          Next up were the dumplings and hot and sour soup.

          The soup was typical for hot and sour in that it was a bit too viscous. One thing that stood out was the liberal use of ground white pepper. Ground white pepper often tastes kind of stale and even dusty to me, but for some reason I also like it. The two strong flavors of the soup were white pepper and salt, not hot and sour, but it was pretty good.

          The dumplings were salty and juicy. The dough was a little gummy. They weren't ultra fresh, but they were fresh and the meat in them was nice. The chili oil and vinegar they came with were both good too. I prefer stronger vinegar with sliced ginger though.

          Last up was the ginger beef - it was really good. Not overpoweringly rich, but almost light and rich. The meat was a little crunchy at first bite, not over coated at all. The next flavor was butter. The meat was the good kind of chewy- chewy that still breaks up. The best surprise though was the sauce. Where normally I expect something close to straight corn syrup, this sauce was nicely thin and balanced with vinegar and a little chili. It was still very sweet, but not as sweet as most. This is a ginger beef that is cared about. It acknowledges that white people like meat, deep fried things, and sweet things, but does not go totally overboard with it. When I was eating the ginger beef I thought it might not be gingery enough, but then I got a nice to get a little chunk of ginger. For subsequent bites I searched out the bits of ginger.

          There are lots of interesting write ups about Silver Inn and ginger beef at the entrance to the restaurant and I got a bit of an education on the way out. The staff were business like, probably overworked, but clearly good people who care about their customers and their restaurant.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Mawson Plan

            Mawson- thanks for the report!

            I find your discussion about "Chinese food" really interesting. Part of becoming a "chowhound" is a stage wherein you are taught to denigrate local (especially North American) versions of "Chinese" because of its inauthenticity- but I think that becoming a TRUE chowhound and not a poseur entails learning that every country has its vernacular "Chinese" and they're all interesting and as varied as the countries themselves. There is nothing at all wrong with enjoying a particular country's spin on it, aside from it sometimes being less than healthy, but all things in moderation and all that...

            I also think it behooves the chowhound to understand a bit about the cuisine's history and to understand that this dish (Calgary ginger beef, for example) is part of the history of the Chinese diaspora. It's CHINESE and reflects the adaptability and resourcefulness of Chinese people and their culture, something to celebrate and take seriously. What's unfortunate are people who EQUATE ginger beef (or in the states things like twice-cooked pork or crab rangoons, "Chinese" things I cannot find in Canada) with "Chinese." But equally sad are those who refuse something on the basis of its lack of authenticity when what they are doing is ignoring an "authentic" aspect of the Chinese diaspora and an important little nugget of history.

            1. This is a really good post, thanks.

              It's been a while since we've been to Silver Inn so I should go back to compare but I like the ginger beef from Ginger Beef because it tends not to be overcooked or too chewy.

              A ginger beef comparison safari sounds like it might be a fun idea.